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Can You Run a Game off a Flash Drive? We Checked

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The conventional way to run video games calls for an installation on your computer. But what do you do when that’s not an option? Is it wise to run a game off a portable flash drive?

You can run a game off a flash drive either by directly installing the game onto the portable external drive or copying the installed files from your hard drive directory. Copying the directory may prevent some hidden files from transferring and require a third-party application. 

In this article, I will discuss different ways of running a computer game off a flash drive and how to execute this without any glitches—although some glitches might be inevitable for games that require higher specifications. 

How To Run a Game off a Flash Drive 

I’m sure you’ve encountered a situation where you wanted to game on a new machine that doesn’t have your favorite games installed. In this case, a flash drive comes handy. There are a few ways to go about it:

Copying the Installed Files From Your Hard Drive Directory

You can copy the game you want onto your flash drive by going into the directory and selecting the game folder, which contains all the installed files for the game.

 Follow the steps below:

  1. Go into My Computer and select the C drive. Unless you choose a different drive at the time of installation, C drive is where you’ll find all your programs. 
  2. Go into Program Files and look for the folder with the game files.
  3. Simply select that folder, right-click, and copy.
  4. Now paste this folder onto your portable external USB drive.

This method is not guaranteed to work with every game. This is primarily because some of the hidden files may not get copied using this method, and you will face some glitches. Additionally, you might have problems running the game on a computer that doesn’t run the same operating system.

This method usually works for games that don’t require a lot of system resources to run. If you have a game that you love playing and it doesn’t call for a high-end PC, this method will work for you.

Also, keep in mind that your save files might be stored somewhere else. You’ll want to copy those too.

Moving a Steam Game to a Flash Drive

If you’re trying to move a Steam game to your Flash Drive, you’ll have to go to the location of your Steam library. You can find it by going to Steam Settings, selecting the “Downloads” tab, clicking on “Steam Library Folder” and checking the default installation path.’

However, if you’re using Steam, it’s much easier to do the following:

  1. Go to Settings, then “Downloads”, and open “Steam Library Folder.”
  2. Add a new Steam Library folder and choose the flash drive as its location.
  3. Go to your Steam Library and right-click on a game.
  4. Select “Properties.”
  5. In the new window, select the “Local files” tab.
  6. Click on “Move content” and select the library you created in your Flash Drive.

Using Third-party Software To Copy the Files

Suppose the first method fails to achieve desirable results. In that case, you can move on to a dedicated application that transfers software like games to an external drive. Many applications are designed explicitly for this purpose, like EaseUS.

This method ensures that all the critical files needed to run the game properly are transferred to the flash drive. 

One thing you need to keep in mind is the speed at which information is transferred from your flash drive to the CPU (central processing unit). Usually, this speed is higher when you have a game installed on your internal storage. However, technology has advanced quite a bit in the past few decades. You can find high-speed USB flash drives that offer speeds similar to or even higher than internal storage. 

Applications like EaseUS are also quite handy for freeing up space from your hard drive. If you need more space on your computer, you can offload some larger applications onto your flash drive and reserve space for other vital functions. 

Using this method will run the application on the source computer. Still, it might not always work on another computer that wasn’t used to install the application. If that is the case, continue reading.

Installing the Game Directly Onto a Flash Drive

Another effective method is to install the game directly onto your portable external drive. This can eliminate some of the issues that the other methods pose. You would typically select your flash drive when installing the game. 

If the game setup doesn’t allow you to select your flash drive as the destination folder for the game you are trying to install, you must check to ensure that your flash drive is formatted as NTFS. NTFS allows file storage of up to 256 TB. Most flash drives come formatted as FAT32 and do not accommodate file storage of over 4 GB.

Even with this method, you might encounter glitches and freeze-time when playing the game. Since data is being processed from an external drive, it sometimes takes longer for the information to reach the CPU. 

What To Do When All Else Fails

If you have tried all the methods above and nothing has worked for you, there is one more thing you can try. If you have the setup files for all your favorite games, you should transfer them to your flash drive and take them with you. 

When you want to run a game on a different computer, you can simply plug in your flash drive and install the game on that specific machine. Here you have the option to either install the game on the HDD or the flash drive. Both will work if the operating system is compatible with the software setup files. 

Final Thoughts

All the above methods work on games that do not require a registry on a computer. Choose the way that best fits your needs and always keep your pocket warm with a flash drive full of games.  

If all else fails, you can try to install the game on another computer using the setup files from your flash drive.

Remember that these methods may not work with certain games. It all depends on the recommended speed transfer for the game, the operating system you’re working with, and how much data your drive can hold.

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